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Formula 1 Third Test: Times from Day 3 at Barcelona

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistMarch 3, 2012

BARCELONA, SPAIN - MARCH 03:  Sergio Perez of Mexico and Sauber F1 drives during day three of Formula One winter testing at the Circuit de Catalunya on March 3, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Day three of the third test at the Circuit de Catalunya took place on Saturday, and a sunny day was forecast, with a top temperature of 15°C (59°F).

But we all know meteorologists can get it wrong from time to time, and sure enough, the dry running was ended mid-afternoon by rain and a bit of hail.

The game of musical seats continued, with Heikki Kovalainen and Bruno Senna the only men driving for a second day in a row.  Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo had their first taste of the action this week.

Felipe Massa was apparently fired last night, but despite that setback, he still replaced Fernando Alonso—another reminder that care must always be taken with rumours circulated on Twitter.

In the world of real news, HRT have admitted defeat in their quest to get the F112 ready for the final day.  In their three years of existence, the Spanish team has yet to complete a single lap of preseason testing. They and Marussia—who still haven't passed the final crash test—will be entering the first race weekend with cars that are totally untested on the track.

Back to Saturday's action.  The quickest time of the day was supplied by Sauber's Sergio Perez, a 1:22.094, setting a new benchmark for the fastest time at the track this year.  McLaren man Jenson Button was nine-thousandths of a second back.

# Driver Team Time Laps
01 Sergio Perez Sauber 1:22.094 114
02 Jenson Button McLaren 1:22.103 44
03 Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1:22.155 131
04 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:22.413 122
05 Paul di Resta Force India 1:22.446 108
06 Bruno Senna Williams 1:22.480 111
07 Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1:22.630 64
08 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:22.662 70
09 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:22.932 129
10 Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1:25.379 43
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Put this guy next to the Caterham, it'd be like looking at twins...
Put this guy next to the Caterham, it'd be like looking at twins...Jonathan Wood/Getty Images

As this was the last testing day for many drivers, some form of faster running was expected, and the teams didn't disappoint.  Perez's time was set during a three-lap qualifying simulation on the Pirelli soft tyres.  Button used either the soft or medium compound for his best.

After yesterday, it's not too surprising, but I have to mention him again.  Heikki Kovalainen's time of 1.22.630 was very nearly three seconds quicker than his qualifying time last year, and though set on the super-softs, it's a very encouraging sign. 

The top nine were separated by just nine-tenths of a second, and the overall speed was good.  Everyone from Nico Rosberg up would have qualified in the top 10 for last season's race.

The odd man out, Kimi Raikkonen, spent much of the morning battling steering issues with the Lotus and didn't get round to doing any low-fuel stints.  The Finn was limited to just 43 laps and can't have been pleased with his day.

Button's running was also disrupted, a hydraulic problem with the McLaren leaving him on a disappointing 44 laps. 

Sunday—the 12th and final day of preseason testing—will see Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton return to the cockpit. 

It's likely the ultimate pace of the top cars around the Barcelona track is under the 81-second mark, perhaps even closer to 1:20.500.  Fancy taking up the challenge, Mr. Vettel?

The session will start, as usual, at 9am CET.

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